Design theory Special Interest Group

The general goal of the Design theory SIG is to organize, collect and support research work that contributes to the renewal of Design theory by benefiting from new scientific advances, and by adapting it to highly innovative design situations.

The SIG evolves along two main directions: the “hard program” (formal design theory) and the “open program” (design theory and design issues), that are closely interacting with each other: the “open program” uses the results of the hard program to deal with issues in many areas (including management, economics, art and, philosophy). This interaction has also lead to raise new questions for the “hard program”. This dual logic was used for instance to discuss design theory and methods (how methods use DT and imploring DT to ask new questions to enhance itself) or to discuss design enigma coming from art (how art and symbolic objects could raise interesting questions for DT).

The work has been divided into four axes:


  1. Design theory, Mathematics and formalized models

The SIG relies now on a large set of formalized theories and models. In the recent years the SIG has explored the mathematical foundations of design theory (forcing, splitting condition, category theory and Topos), design and possibility theory, design and constructivism, design and logic, design and matroid, generative functions, design and machine learning, design and algebraic extensions, design and generative data science, design and models of generative knowledge structures.


  1. Design theory and new approaches of flexible structures of knowledge


This second topic studies the relationship between, flexible knowledge structures and design theory. It developed through an elaboration of the concept of the interdisciplinary engineering knowledge genome as well as continuous work on n-dim and flat spaces as potential structures for design.

Several works discussed the relationship between design and specific “non-verbal” types of knowledge such as emotion, sensations, music, drawing…

Models of the generativity of knowledge structure have been presented and discussed (Topos structure and design, generativity of “patrimoine de creation”, autogenetic design theory, generativity in deep learning).


  1. Theory-driven experiments:

This third axis includes fundamentals from neuroscience, with discussion of design fixation and inhibitory control in the human brain.

Along this line of exploration many innovative design experiments were reported. Studies were reported on the use of design methods derived from design theory. In particular: works on KCP method and its improvement, and, on the use of design methods in different cultures

Experiments on “design of gestures”, and “design thinking” were also reported. In particular researchers are today improving techniques to measure the generativity of design methods such as “design thinking”.


  1. History of Design theories, contemporary context and identity of objects:

Building on the work on the history of design theory in several perspectives (Bauhaus, Gracian rhetoric, German systematic and, others), a new dimension of explorations led to the new theme “new critic in design and the identity of objects”.

The SIG dedicated several sessions and works to learn more and diffuse the Theory of Technical System of Hubka and Eder and on the Autogenetic Design Theory.


Chairmen: Pascal Le Masson, Eswaran Subrahmanian;

Secretary : Akin Kazakçi

Founding chairmen : Armand Hatchuel, Yoram Reich

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